Every time we learn a new tidbit of information about my father’s adoption, there is an emotional process that unplugs the present. It feels like a giant box of archived files has been spilled into your mental inbox. Forgotten and fuzzy memories have to be replayed with the new information added, like a newly discovered color that makes the picture both clear and vivid.
Seeing pictures of my father’s birth mother was hard. My father is the victim I know and understand. Now, the other victim has a face. A face that we all stare at and question what we think we see in it. Not a case number or emotionless forms, but a real person.
I knew how much effort went into my father’s efforts to get clearance to work with certain agencies. I remember my father’s phone calls, letters, and constant interactions with government officials. My parents talked about Lamar Alexander as though he was a friend, but I never realized why until now. It took my father reminding me that he would not have gotten the passport and clearance he needed for work if Lamar had not personally intervened multiple times. Georgia Tann’s paperwork declaring my father dead effectively replaced my father’s official records with a mishmash of half-truths, lies, and facts. Lamar Alexander went above and beyond to help my father.
I have often heard my father lament the fact that while everyone around him was drafted, he was not. Anyone who has heard him talk about it knows that every word is saturated with guilt. He sincerely feels like he cheated his friends. I never understood his inability to stop blaming himself.
When he talked about it again this week, I finally understood his pain. He was never included in the pool of eligible men for the draft. He did not clearly exist in government records, but he didn’t understand that until Lamar explained it to him. My father didn’t deliberately cheat, but he was cheated out of any responsibility. He can’t let go of that. The stories and memories are clearer, but instead of being long ago accepted, they are fresh emotions that are too raw to be willing to be returned to the archives.
Little things, like a picture, open wormholes that make the past part of the present.